I just ordered a demo model. Have you had time to get some initial impressions?
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC - Any Impressions? - Page 2
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I won't even call this an initial review, so don't read on if you want something truly substantive.
Well Music Direct really delivered fast. I was supposed to get the DAC on Sat. and lo and behold I get a FedEx e-mail telling me it is sitting on my doorstep today (Friday). Well I wasn't prepared to have several hundred dollars sitting on the doorstep so I did a quick run home so I could get it into the house. So I hastily opened it to see what this demo unit looked like and it was in pristine condition. I did have to return to work, so the quick eyeball had to do me until I could get home 6 hours later. Speculation by the salesman was that it was used for some photo shoot. In this case I believe him. Maybe it wasn't someone earlier buyer's cup of tea, but it saved me some coin.
Inside the box was a really nice bond paper letter from the founder of Musical Fidelity (Antony Michaelson) that started with "Dear Music Lover". The letter went on to explain how he started the business at his kitchen table. Marketing blather? All the same it was a nice touch. I'm a bit of an MF fan as previously I had an A5 Cd player and a RS Raptor and I was in heaven as I listened to my Sennheiser HD-600 and HD-650's. I've missed that system ever since I had to sell it off.
First hurdle. I had to dig up some old blue Audioquest IC's. I plan to upgrade to some AQ Cobra's. Should I be making use of the AES balanced ports instead of RCA IC's? Other upgrades will include getting my older Rotel CD/DVD player hooked up via coax this weekend, and of course an upgrade to a PS Audio power cable ASAP.
Second challenge was figuring out how to get optical out on my iMac. Apple Support told me I didn't have optical out on my my mid-2010 iMac. I called them because I couldn't get a connection between the iMac and the DAC. Well I had already Googled it and found the iMac did indeed have an optical out. My mistake was plugging into the audio in mini-jack. As many probably already know the headphone jack gives dual output. Problem solved and I was soon getting up to 96Khz out via Toslink instead of the Mac instead of 44Khz out of the USB port. Next stop 192Khz via a CD player.
The third challenge was some awful grunge that was coming out of the PS Audio Headphone amp. (via USB when there was no music and I had jacked the volume up). I remember reading somewhere a USB cable connection at the same time might introduce a buzz. I'm still working on that.
So after only five hours burn-in what am I hearing with the iMac optical>MF M1DAC>PS Audio head amp.>Sennheiser HD-650's? Wider soundstage, tighter bass, nicer mid-range, and a tamer (less strident) high end. Maybe all in all a leaner, more accurate sound via the iMac and Toslink compared to USB using the built-in PS-Audio headphone amplifier's DAC. I'm hoping a few more burn in hours give me a truer picture of what I've got here. I'll put a picture up tomorrow. In the meantime comment away.
Edited by Jazz1 - 10/5/10 at 4:44pm
Update with picture. I tried the USB port with my Macbook Pro on battery and I got no noise issue with the MF M1 (no music playing with the PS Audio headphone amplifier's volume jacked 3/4th to full). Retesting the iMac with nothing plugged in but the USB to the M1 still gave me noise. I do have the Mac plugged into an APC UPS and I'm wondering if that is the problem? I'm a little concerned about this issue as I did want to try the Hiface USB dongle option. For the record I had no USB noise problem from the iMac to the PS Audio headphone amplifier's USB port. I'm using an Audioquest Cinnamon USB cable which is a high quality USB cable.
I've gone back to optical for now and continue to burn in the DAC. I'll try to set-up my older Rotel CD/DVD player tomorrow and see how a coax connection performs. One last thing of note. The DAC does not remember the last input used after powering down and powering up. Not a big deal for me as it is on my desk. I haven't had time to read the manual yet so I will read it later and see if this port "amnesia" is normal.
I am very happy with it so far. As reported earlier I'm having noise problems with USB out from my i7 iMac. Checking the USB out on my MacBookPro laptop (both plugged into to AC and running of battery) I've got no problem whatsoever with USB out using the M1 to feed the PS Audio GCHA. I only get the noise coming in using the iMac.
I went to the Apple Genius Bar today just to feel them out on what the problem might be. They told me I could bring in my DAC and headphone amplifier and check it out on one of their Macs. I'm trying to avoid having to lug in the entire ensemble of DAC, amplifier and iMac.
My plans to use the Rotel CD Player have been delayed as the family just announced a DVD Movie session. My plan is to replace it with a cheaper DVD player and grab the Rotel. This will probably happen next weekend.
I've been running the DAC almost every waking hour in order to burn it in. Using Apple's Lossless, Clapton's new CD, and the Doobie Brother's new CD sound great. Even my iTunes+ tunes sound better as compared to using the PS Audio's GCHA built-in DAC. I'm not knocking the PS Audio's GCHA DAC, and I was bound and determined to try the PS Audio DAC III. However, the demo price of the MF M1 I got swayed me.
I'm avoiding the older iTunes downloads at the lower resolution. I can see I'll be buying a lot of used CD's trying to rebuild my music library. Why of why did I ever go off the "golden path"
So what am I trying to accomplish? Well my best system to date was a Raptor being fed by a MF A5 (maybe I'm a tube man). I also had an AKG K1000 fed via a Krell Integrated Amplifier with an old Aragon DAC. I'm sorry I ever sold those off. I have no way of knowing if the A5 CD Player's DAC is superior to the M1. But I can only say at this stage of the M1 burn-in the Raptor based system sounded "wetter" or more organic. Maybe it is my old D.J., Koss Pro4AA platter/vinyl record days are coming back to haunt me me?
Back to the M1. I really satisfied with it. I think I'm probably holding it back by not feeding it with 192Khz. I'm working on that and will report back as soon as I can. I know in these circles the M1's price is probably considered entry level when compared with some of the best of the best. That is why I don't test drive Mercedes or Porches anymore
Edited by Jazz1 - 10/5/10 at 4:41pm
- 321 Posts. Joined 10/2009
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Do take your time with the dac before you come to a conclusion with it.
Also, thanks heaps for your valuable impressions Jazz1.
I contacted the distributor of Music Fidelity equipment in the USA as I was having some issues with USB cable noise. Actually two representatives called me and they were both incredibly helpful. I still haven't solved issue completely ( screwed up messing with the Audio MIDI application), but I'm convinced it is my iMac not the DAC, as my Macbook Pro does not have any noise problems at all with USB into this DAC. I'm still working on it. I've gone to optical in the meantime.
One of the of distributor representatives did tell me that in December MF is going to release a USB out device. I took this to mean that it was going to be something along the lines of the Hiface device. I could be wrong. I didn't want to hound the guy who was helping me. I'd really like to try that new device. He also told me the new MF headphone amplifier/DAC was coming soon and his demo model was pretty sweet as he had a copy.
In the meantime I'm trying to decide what to upgrade next. I bought some used King Cobra IC's (thank you Dynobot who was very helpful BTW), and I'm toying with the idea of getting an AQ Optilink 3 cable, but will probably get a PS Audio power cable first. I'm already using one on the PS Audio GCHA.
I started out with vinyl years ago, went to cassette (bad dog) and then reel-to-reel, and then CD's. I know the sound I'm looking for but getting there is half the fun
I can't wait to hear thoughts on the M1 from other head-fiers.
Edited by Jazz1 - 10/8/10 at 5:29pm
Well today I started ripping my 500+ CD's to AIFF. While the iMac is busy with that task I thought I'd use my iPad to drive my HD-650'a via the MF-M1 DAC and PS Audio GCHA. This is my first long term experience with the M1 DAC using USB. because I'm getting noise off of my iMac's USB I abandoned USB and went to optical. I'm pretty impressed with the M1 DAC. I have to admit to say I've not had much experience with outboard DAC's. My last brush with "greatness" was with an Aargon DAC that I used with a K1000's driven by a Krell Integrated amplifier. Other than that I've had in the past relied on an MF A5's onboard DAC with a Raptor, and I've been trying to reach that excellence ever since.
I've been putting a good number of hours the DAC and it just gets better and better. Even iTunes standard iTunes+ sound good with this DAC. This afternoon's highlight was listening to The Band's Last Waltz (actually ripped to fit on the iPad 256 kbps). Can't wait to hear this one in AIFF or AIFF rip of Elton John's Original Master Tumbleweed Connection.
I actually had some fear that it was going to make my iTunes downloads unbearable, but that is not the case. Of course my newly ripped AIFF files sound better, and I assume a decent transport would be even better.
I wish I could tell people that the M1 DAC is better than DACs costing 2X, 3X. or more. I can't because I don't have that kind of experience. But I can say that it was well worth the money to me, and that I'd be hard put to spend a lot more money when this DAC performs so well. I think I have a lot more cable and source tweaking before I outrun this DAC's capabilities.
Edited by Jazz1 - 10/10/10 at 5:33pm
I appreciate your impressions of this device. I am also glad you spilled the beans about the new USB device. More and more appear to be coming in the future (which is awesome).
What source were you using before the m1dac, and how does the m1dac compare?
- 1,598 Posts. Joined 7/2009
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Thanks for sharing your impressions Jazz1.
The M1 Dac looks very promising, I used to own the V-DAC and thought was really good, and a bargain for the price.
But I hated the ergonomics of it, with inputs and ouputs on different sides.
At least the M1 comes with a nice case and XLR outputs...I'm really tempted by it
Well I hope the M1 turns out to be more than a bigger box and black paint